For Immediate Release
Jefferson County Public Health
Liz Anderson, Communications Specialist
Jefferson County Board of Health Restructuring, Needs New Members
Jefferson County, WA. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the role of Jefferson County Public Health was not often discussed nor well understood by most Jefferson County residents. The pandemic has brought public health to the forefront and the Jefferson County Commissioners hope this will spark interest to community members wanting to serve on a newly restructured Board of Health.
In 2021, in an effort to address disparities in health outcomes, the Washington State Legislature passed House Bill 1152. This bill requires local Boards of Health to include more non-elected members and those with diverse lived experiences. According to state statute, the Jefferson County Board of Health is required to set policy and make funding decisions for the programs run by Jefferson County Public Health. In 1995, Jefferson County was one of the first to expand its Board of Health membership to non-elected members when the state allowed the change. These new requirements in House Bill 1152 will again change the composition starting in July of this year.
The Board of Health is required to fill four new positions, to be appointed by the Board of County Commissioners. Changes initiated by House Bill 1152 include appointment of a tribal representative recruited/selected by the American Indian Health Commission, a position which is not yet filled. Second, Public Hospital District No. 2 (Jefferson Healthcare) will select a representative of health care facilities, a role very similar to an existing position filled by Hospital District Commissioner Dr. Kees Kolff, who has volunteered to continue serving.
The third new member will represent “Consumers of Public Health”, defined as someone who has faced significant health inequities and/or has lived experiences with public health programs. Finally, the last member will be a “Community Stakeholder” position, to be filled by (i) someone representing an organization that works with populations experiencing health inequities, (ii) a current or retired member of the armed forces, and/or (iii) a representative of the business community or businesses that are regulated by environmental public health. Applicants who meet these requirements will be interviewed by the Board. Finalists will be selected based on interest in public health, diversity of lived experience and passion for public service. Professional experience in public health or boards is not a requirement.
These four positions will join the three County Commissioners and one City Council member to comprise the Board, which meets monthly. “We are eager to comply with the intent of the new law,” said County Commissioner Kate Dean. “It is very important that the work we do in public health is supported and influenced by the communities that are served and most impacted by it.” Until the change in law, effective July 1, the Board of Health has two Citizen-At-Large positions. “We are extremely grateful for the volunteer efforts of Sheila Westerman for the past 25 years and Denis Stearns since 2019. They have brought great expertise and insight to our Board.” Jefferson County residents who are interested in serving in the Consumer of Public Health or the Community Stakeholder position are encouraged to visit https://www.co.jefferson.wa.us/1595/Board-of-Health-Expansion for more information and to digitally apply. Applications are also available in person at Jefferson County Public Health (615 Sheridan Street, Port Townsend) or the Commissioner’s Office in the basement of the County Courthouse (1820 Jefferson Street, Port Townsend).
Jefferson County Public Health
Always Working for a Safer and Healthier Community